A senior ministerial source last night dismissed the pay demands as "completely over the top" but indicated the Government was keen to negotiate an agreement on the issue of long hours, before junior doctors decide in September whether to ballot over industrial action.
Fiona Kew, a negotiator from the British Medical Association's junior doctors' committee, said: "We believe that one of the reasons we are working such long hours is that there is an incentive [for health authorities] when we are such cheap labour."
Junior doctors, who were given a 3.5 per cent increase in April following the recommendations of the Doctors' and Dentists' Pay Review Body, are paid only half their normal rate when they work nights and weekends. Their overtime pay is pounds 4.02 per hour and they want it raised to pounds 10 to remove the incentive for managements to make them work long hours.
Labour MPs are sympathetic to calls by junior doctors for a reduction in working hours, but not supportive of their pay demands. Howard Stoate, a GP and Labour MP, said: "There is a need to have discussions about the junior doctors' hours. There is a problem there but it won't be helped by silly pay claims."
The threat of industrial action is being taken seriously by ministers in view of the anger among junior doctors expressed at BMA conferences.Reuse content